5 Risks The Walk Takes That Totally Pay Off

No matter how many times you see footage of Philippe Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the Twin Towers, this feat seems completely impossible. The same could be said of director Robert Zemeckis’ eye-popping movie about this event, which uses the wonders of IMAX 3D to put you in Petit’s shoes (tightrope slippers actually) during this historic stunt. One of the most essential theatrical moviegoing experiences of the year—no TV could do this film justice—The Walk is a triumph of effective rule breaking. Here are just five of Zemeckis’ risks… that totally pay off.

The poster gives away the ending


If you’re simply waiting to see if Philippe Petit’s mission succeeds, the poster kind of spoils the ending, but plot surprises are not The Walk’s top priority. While Zemeckis nonetheless manages to generate a great deal of suspense, the film’s greatest treat is seeing how Petit’s mission succeeds—and experiencing the outcome from his point-of-view.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays French


As authentic as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s French accent seems, the decision to cast a well-known American star in this iconic French role could have easily backfired. To fully inhabit Petit, Gordon-Levitt is forced to indulge in many irritating affectations, but he ultimately delivers an authentic, fully formed performance.

It doesn’t have a villain


Aside from some unsuspecting security guards, the only thing Petit battles in The Walk is the unrealistic nature of his mission. This may seem to have dramatic limitations, but the mission itself offers no shortage of obstacles.

It forces you to think about 9/11 for two hours


People all over the world have negative associations with the World Trade Center towers, making their prominent role in The Walk somewhat problematic. As Petit risks his life, there’s a constant sense that another WTC tragedy is about to unfold. But when Petit succeeds, Zemeckis re-discovers the more positive spirit of the buildings’ origins.

It tells the same story as Man on Wire


While The Walk is undoubtedly inspired by director James Marsh’s Oscar-winning 2008 documentary Man on Wire, Zemeckis brings many new flourishes to the screen. Most importantly, he puts us in Petit’s shoes for large parts of the title stroll, a choice that offers a thrilling, even terrifying first-person experience—from the safety of your seat.

The Walk opens exclusively in IMAX theatres today, and everywhere else on October 9th. (Trust us, IMAX 3D is the way to go.) To scratch the surface of the film’s unprecedented visuals, watch the trailer here.